One Police Plaza

Leonard Levitt's latest book, NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force, is available in stores and online. Click here to order.

Contribute to NYPD Confidential

Fewer Days of Wine and Roses

August 13, 2012

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has reduced his mooching at the Harvard Club, according to his most recent financial disclosures.

Two years after NYPD Confidential revealed the thousands of dollars in freebies that Kelly has enjoyed there, his freeloading has slowed, although it hasn’t stopped.

According to his most recent financial disclosure forms released this month, Kelly’s tab at the club in 2011 was less than $5,000.

As this column reported, those bills — including an annual membership fee of $1,500 and meals and drinks in the tens of thousands of dollars — have been, and continue to be, picked up by the Police Foundation, an arrangement that distorts its mission to support the NYPD.

Apparently to justify his freebies, Kelly notes in the “comments” section of his disclosure form that the “NYC Police Foundation is a non-profit and does no business with the city.”

Exactly how much Kelly spent at the club in 2011 on the foundation’s dime remains unclear. Kelly estimated the value at between $1,000 and $4,999.99.

That is considerably less than he spent in 2009.

In his financial disclosure form for that year he listed “membership and business meals” at between $5,000 and $39,999.99.

Although the police foundation has paid his annual membership of $1,500, as well as an unspecified number of lunches and dinners since his return as police commissioner in 2002, not until this column reported the practice in 2010 did Kelly come clean and include his Harvard Club “gifts” in his financial disclosure forms.

The day after this column’s report, in October 2010, Kelly’s spokesman, Paul Browne, told the New York Times that Kelly’s freebies at the Harvard Club were lawful and intended for city business.

He acknowledged to the Times that Kelly may have erred by failing to report the foundation’s payments, as required by the Conflicts of Interest Board, which requires agency heads and other high-level officials to report gifts totaling more than $1,000 from a single donor.

Despite Kelly’s newfound openness, another gift Kelly received in the past is missing from his 2011 disclosure form: his flights to Florida with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

This could mean that Kelly isn’t flying Air Bloomberg anymore. Or [highly unlikely] that he is paying his own way.

In his 2009 financial disclosure form, Kelly listed six “shared” flights to Florida, with Bloomberg as the donor, with a dollar value undetermined.

Police sources said at the time that Bloomberg had flown Kelly on his private jet to Florida, where Kelly has a second home, before winging off to his own second home in Bermuda. [Bloomberg has third and fourth homes elsewhere.]

Flying his police commissioner around the country in his private jet appears to be unique to New York City and its billionaire mayor.

“People from the corporate sector [like Bloomberg] have a different style and a different set of values,” says the police historian, Thomas Reppetto, who has been a guest of Kelly’s at the Harvard Club and whose latest book, “American Police, 1945–2012,” will be published in September .

“Bloomberg doesn’t bill the city,” says Reppetto. “What’s not to like?”

Where Bloomberg’s largesse becomes tricky is when such “gifts” bump up against the city’s longtime ethics rules.

Accepting gifts or gratuities are of special import for the NYPD, with its famed corruption-prone past.

Although the department’s pervasive and systemic corruption died down after the Knapp Commission scandal of the early 1970s, Kelly’s free flights on Bloomberg’s jet propagate the double standard of a commissioner traveling for free while the Patrol Guide prohibits cops from accepting even a free cup of coffee.

Reppetto notes that Bloomberg’s generosity to Kelly reflects a rare closeness between a mayor and his police commissioner.

“Often, they are rivals and barely talk,” he says, referring to a past situation in Los Angeles.

Indeed such iciness existed in New York in the mid-1990s between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his first police commissioner, Bill Bratton.

The two vied over who deserved credit for the city’s dramatic crime reductions. Their rivalry led Giuliani to force Bratton out after just two years.

Bloomberg may sound tepid about Kelly’s qualifications for mayor but his confidence in Kelly in police matters — as well as Bloomberg’s obvious distaste for them himself — is reflected in his granting Kelly more power and authority than any police commissioner in New York City history.

Besides allowing Kelly to take the department beyond its traditional geographic and possibly legal boundaries with its widespread spying on Muslims, Bloomberg has allowed Kelly to become a social lion.

Kelly’s luncheons at the Harvard Club – reflected in his public schedule obtained by this reporter through a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties’ Union – show that his guests were reporters, editors, authors, and media personalities.

Those entertainments reflect just a part of Kelly’s social schedule, which the Police Foundation has also helped to enhance.

Beginning in 2006, the foundation paid a total of $400,000 to a marketing consultant whose job morphed into a high-powered public relations man for Kelly, introducing him to financially and socially prominent New Yorkers.

In 2008, this publicist, Hamilton South, arranged for Kelly to be featured in Men’s Vogue, wearing what the magazine described as a “bespoke Martin Greenfield suit, French cuffs fastened with weighty gold links and a gold-colored Charvet tie. [‘My big weakness,’ he confided.”]

The magazine also described Kelly as “a fixture on the city’s social circuit,” adding that “he appears in society photographs with actresses like Ellen Barkin, designers like Ralph Lauren and pop stars like Marc Anthony.”

Anthony has become a regular at the annual Police Foundation dinner, which Kelly moved from police headquarters, where it had been held for nearly 30 years, to the Waldorf Astoria, where tickets go for around $1,000.

At the dinner, Kelly holds center stage. At least once when Anthony performed, Kelly accompanied him on the bongos.

But Bloomberg’s largesse towards Kelly has its limits. Kelly’s public relations push went into full swing around 2008 when Kelly was lining up support for his mayoral bid the following year.

That that ended when Bloomberg decided he wanted a third term for himself.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled: “The Real Story of Chicago’s Bloody Summer,” Bill Bratton made a surprising pitch for community policing.

He noted that, even though Chicago’s murder rate has spiked 31 per cent this year, the city had cut killings in half since the mid-nineties, partly because of what Bratton called “the philosophy of ‘community policing,’ which focuses on establishing partnerships and seeking to prevent crime, as opposed to just responding to it.”

Bratton added that both Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy —formerly of the NYPD — supported community policing.

Community policing? Wasn’t that the discredited philosophy espoused in the early 1990s by Mayor David Dinkins and by his two police commissioners, Lee Brown and Ray Kelly?

Wasn’t community policing the policy that Giuliani and the same Bill Bratton derided in the mid-1990s as “social work?”

Wasn’t community policing abandoned by Kelly, who instead has gone full-bore with Stop-and-Frisk?

So what’s up?

People who know Bratton, now in the private security business in New York after heading police departments in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, say the answer is simple.

His push for community policing is an appeal to minority voters, many of whom support it and deplore Stop and Frisk.

This may be the ticket that gets Bratton back in the game.


Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt